Read Worlds of Wonder: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction by Robert Silverberg Damon Knight Philip K. Dick C.M. Kornbluth Bob Shaw Frederik Pohl Alfred Bester C.L. Moore Online


Contents:xi · Foreword · Robert Silverberg · fw 1 · Introduction: The Making of a Science-Fiction Writer · Robert Silverberg · in * 35 · Four in One · Damon Knight · nv Galaxy Feb ’53 59 · “Four in One”: Complications with Elegance · Robert Silverberg · ar * 66 · Fondly Fahrenheit · Alfred Bester · nv F&SF Aug ’54 82 · “Fondly Fahrenheit”: Who Am I, Which Are You? · RoContents:xi · Foreword · Robert Silverberg · fw 1 · Introduction: The Making of a Science-Fiction Writer · Robert Silverberg · in * 35 · Four in One · Damon Knight · nv Galaxy Feb ’53 59 · “Four in One”: Complications with Elegance · Robert Silverberg · ar * 66 · Fondly Fahrenheit · Alfred Bester · nv F&SF Aug ’54 82 · “Fondly Fahrenheit”: Who Am I, Which Are You? · Robert Silverberg · ar * 88 · No Woman Born · C. L. Moore · nv Astounding Dec ’44 125 · “No Woman Born”: Flowing from Ring to Ring · Robert Silverberg · ar * 136 · Home Is the Hunter · Henry Kuttner · ss Galaxy Jul ’53 144 · “Home Is the Hunter”: The Triumph of Honest Roger Bellamy · Robert Silverberg · ar * 151 · The Monsters · Robert Sheckley · ss F&SF Mar ’53 158 · “The Monsters”: Don’t Forget to Kill Your Wife · Robert Silverberg · ar * 164 · Common Time · James Blish · ss Science Fiction Quarterly Aug ’53 181 · “Common Time”: With All of Love · Robert Silverberg · ar * 190 · Scanners Live in Vain · Cordwainer Smith · nv Fantasy Book #6 ’50 217 · “Scanners Live in Vain”: Under the Wire with the Habermans · Robert Silverberg · ar * 224 · Hothouse [Gren (Hothouse)] · Brian W. Aldiss · nv F&SF Feb ’61 251 · “Hothouse”: The Fuzzypuzzle Odyssey · Robert Silverberg · ar * 257 · The New Prime [“Brain of the Galaxy”] · Jack Vance · nv Worlds Beyond Feb ’51 276 · “The New Prime”: Six Plots for the Price of One · Robert Silverberg · ar * 280 · Colony · Philip K. Dick · ss Galaxy Jun ’53 295 · “Colony”: I Trusted the Rug Completely · Robert Silverberg · ar * 301 · The Little Black Bag · C. M. Kornbluth · nv Astounding Jul ’50 323 · “The Little Black Bag”: Press Button for Triple Bypass · Robert Silverberg · ar * 329 · Light of Other Days [Slow Glass] · Bob Shaw · ss Analog Aug ’66 335 · “Light of Other Days”: Beyond the Radius of Capture · Robert Silverberg · ar * 340 · Day Million · Frederik Pohl · ss Rogue Feb/Mar ’66 344 · “Day Million”: A Boy, a Girl, a Love Story · Robert Silverberg · ar * 350 · For Further Reading · Misc. Material · bi...

Title : Worlds of Wonder: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780446513692
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Worlds of Wonder: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction Reviews

  • Allan Dyen-Shapiro
    2019-03-13 01:28

    This book was recommended to me by a science fiction writer as having useful essays dissecting why science fiction works. They are useful. Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors, so I was happy to listen to anything he said.However, some of the stories are real gems that I would not have otherwise come across. Silverberg culled the period from the mid-40s through early 60s--the "Pulp Era"--and found some that stand out as exceptional for that time period. My favorite was Alfred Bester's "Fondly Farenheit". The purposely confused point of view was wonderful--it really created a fantastic vision of the mindset the author was trying to convey (I can't say any more without spoiling a great story). Robert Sheckley's "The Monsters" was also a fabulous blend of horror tropes with science fiction tropes and absurdist humor. I don't usually read this period of science fiction--my favorites are the 60s/70s New Wave, the 80s Cyberpunk, and the neat fusion of styles that has characterized the 90s through the present. So for others who are similarly 1950s-deficient in their reading, get this for the great stories. For those learning to write, the essays are quite useful.

  • Ron
    2019-03-02 00:07

    Published as Worlds of Wonder in 1987, Science Fiction 101 still works on several levels: as an autobiography of "one of the most honored Masters in the history of the field" (and you thought Asimov immodest), as an introduction to classic SF short stories mostly from the 1950s, and as entertaining and insightful essays on just what SF is and how it works.Unlike many current authorities, Silverberg places SF inside the fantasy genre. In fact, ignoring the obvious vampires, elves and magic, he argues that it precisely the possibility--however improbably--of SF which distinguishes it from fantasy. And demonstrates his point using several stories which have no overt SF characteristics.Some of the stories are excellent; some less so, and a few irritating poor, but Science Fiction 101 is far better than most SF anthologies you'll find these days.A good read.

  • Mike
    2019-03-18 01:28

    The premise of this collection is, to someone like me who aspires to sell stories to SFF magazines, a compelling one. Much-awarded writer Silverberg collects stories that were influential on him as a young writer, that he learned from, along with essays on each story analysing what he learned from it, and an overall essay about the start of his career in general.The main drawback is that this is an almost-30-year-old book in which a writer whose fiction I've never really liked analyses stories that were, at the time, more than 30 years old and are now about 60 years old. Studying them might therefore not help a great deal with selling stories in the current market.Now, there are some things that Silverberg says in the main introductory essay that I think are still useful. He talks about what he learned in his university studies about story in general, from studying Greek tragedy and storytelling theory, and he formulates it well. For example, he talks about how a story is built around conflict, the inevitable clash of powerful forces, and how the protagonist comes to participate in that conflict because of something he or she cares about; struggles against obstacles; and is permanently changed as a result. Reading this helped give me ideas for how to improve my stories: intensify the conflict or make it more interesting, increase the protagonist's investment in it, show more of their struggle, think about how they are changed by it. All of this is good stuff. The analysis of the individual stories I found less useful. A lot of the stories of the 1950s, most of them, in fact, featured thin characterisation; Silverberg mentions this a couple of times, only in order to dismiss it as unimportant, because the science-fictional idea was what mattered. Perhaps this is one reason I've never loved his stories, because to me a character with some depth is important (it's why I can't abide Scalzi's work, which retains that 1950s flaw of indistinguishable characters who are more or less talking furniture). I got my copy from the library, and an aggrieved feminist has written in it (in pencil) critiques of a couple of the stories, in particular Robert Sheckley's "The Monsters", in which casual wife-murder is used to make a cheap, glib point about moral relativity. She has a point. Along with thin characterisation, violence against women treated as a source of humour isn't going to play well in the current short story market, and quite rightly. For that matter, a classical approach to story and plot won't necessarily help you to be published in some venues (Clarkesworld comes to mind), but I happen to agree with Silverberg on that aspect of the craft. And there are plenty of markets which do require a beginning, middle and end to a story, not just a lot of pretty jazzing about until you decide to stop. In summary, then, I did learn something useful from this book, but most of it was early on. I did enjoy some of the stories (Frederick Pohl's "Day Million", for example, which closes the book, and which is an obvious inspiration for Harry Turtledove's 2013 story "It's the End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine"), and it's a good idea to know the classics, if only, as Silverberg points out, so you can avoid rewriting them from ignorance. The idea of the book is a good one, and I'd really like to see the same thing done again by another writer with more recent stories. Maybe I'll even attempt it myself, drawing on the many stories that are free to read online these days.

  • Marc Goldstein
    2019-03-09 20:36

    9 “Four in One” by Damon Knight Recon party get ingested by an amoeba-like organism. Their brains and nervous systems remain intact in a symbiotic state with the amoeba. The narrator, an unflappable scientist, is the first ingested and the first to begin to work out their predicament. One of others is a political officer who orders them to return to camp. The scientist understands this will be suicide, and a power struggle begins. The four minds compete for dominance of the amoeba organism. The narrator and a female scientist both survive. They adapt to their new amoeboid bodies and perhaps will be better for it.7 “Fondly Fahrenheit” by Alfred Bester A man’s android turns homicidal when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. The android is his cash cow, so he refuses to get rid of it. He and the android begin to merge identities. Was the man originally insane and imposed it on the android or the other way around? The android is destroyed in a fire. The man gets a robot. The robot wanders off with a young woman and the temperature falls below 40 degrees. The cycle continues. All reet!7 “No Woman Born” by C.L. Moore A popular actress/singer/dancer named Deidre is badly burned in a fire. A scientist puts her brain into a sophisticated robotic body. After her recovery, Deidre wishes to return to performing. The scientist fears that the audience will reject her. He wonders if he has created a monster; he knows that the longer her mind lives in the robot body, the more removed she will become from human experience and understanding. Her return to the stage is triumphant. Nevertheless, the scientist tries to kill himself. Deidre prevents his suicide, demonstrating superhuman powers. She still has compassion, but her robot body is already changing her.7 “Home is the Hunter” by Henry Kuttner Futuristic society divided into two castes: the populi, and an elite group of aristocratic head hunters who fight for sport and wealth. The pressure to kill and amass more heads is constant and unbearable for the narrator. When one of his friends is killed, he seeks revenge. In the process he wins more heads than any other hunter. He throws a party and, greeting his guests, drinks poison and kills himself. Metaphor for competition.9 “The Monsters” by Robert Sheckley Narrated from the POV of aliens who must kill their wives every 25 days to reduce the disproportionate female population. The men debate, take wives regularly, and kill each other without compunction or consequence. Humans arrive in a spaceship. The aliens wonder if the humans are moral beings. They fear the humans, but make an attempt to communicate. When the humans have been on the planet 25 days, one of the aliens decides to kill one of the female humans as a favor to the males. Appalled, the humans kill the alien and order the rest to kill no more females. The aliens respond with outrage; the female aliens lead the assault on the human spaceship.9 “Scanners Live in Vain” by Cordwainer Smith Space travel is unbearably painful to anyone not in hypersleep. So spaceships are crewed by humans who have their consciousness projected from earth to space. The neural blocks required to do this render the men cripples, robbed of their senses and incapable of normal human contact without “cranking.” The Scanners monitor the crews and ensure the safety of all aboard the ships. The narrator “cranks” back to earth to spend some time with his wife. He expresses frustration with his life as a scanner. He is summoned to an emergency meeting of scanners. He is the only cranked scanner at the meeting. Their leader announces that a scientist has discovered a cure for the pain of space travel, rendering scanners obsolete, their sacrifices in vain. The scanners decide to assassinate the scientist. The narrator foils the assassination, and all the scanners are returned to normal life. Groundbreaking for its bleak view of the future and for its vision of how technology can destroy our humanity.9 “Hothouse” by Brian Aldiss Countless years into the future, Earth has been overgrown with vicious, aggressive, carnivorous vegetation. Humans have been reduced to scavengers hiding in the tree tops. The tropical nightmare is totally immersive: hot, humid, oppressive, with death lurking behind every leaf and branch. Village elders prepare to ascend to heaven. They place themselves in cocoons atop the forest ceiling. The cocoons stick to the bodies of giant spider-like plants called traversers, like pollen sticks to bees. The traversers spend most of their time in outspace, soaking up raw radiation from the sun. They frequently stop on the moon on the way out, and, as a result, have unwittingly seeded the moon with plant and animal life. The trip through space mutates the humans into winged “flymen.” The flymen elders have hatched a plan to return to earth.6 “Common Time” by James Blish Test pilot attempts faster than light travel. The time distortion effects slow time by a factor of 6,000. The oscillations of the engine then accelerate time beyond the pilot’s ability to process stimuli, and he enters a coma. During this coma he experiences an encounter with an alien intelligence that soothes and comforts him. Did he dream or hallucinate this meeting? He has no way of knowing for sure. When the test ends, he longs to return to space again, but learns he must undergo extensive testing and will never fly again.7 “The New Prime” by Jack Vance Five apparently unrelated episodes dovetail. They have been tests conducted in virtual reality to measure the personality of the candidate. The man who devised the test is the incumbent “Prime” – the executive leader of the galactic government. The tests evaluate the candidates social skills, aggressiveness, imagination, loyalty, and ability to withstand torture. The senators observing the test will decide who will be the new Prime. The senior senator points out that the incumbent’s test is designed to suit his personality traits, so it was inevitable that he should score the highest. He notes that the test does not evaluate characteristics that the incumbent lacks, and the senate believes are most important: compassion, sympathy, tolerance. One candidate has been driven insane by the torture test. He is the man the senators choose to be the new prime.8 “Colony” by Phillip K. Dick Explorers analyzing a planet being considered for colonization are unable to find any dangerous organisms, not even microbes. Then one of the scientists is attacked by his microscope. The planet is filled with alien beings that are capable of perfectly imitating the shape of any inanimate object. Dick mixes horror and farce as human crew members are attacked and killed by towels, belts, welcome mats, clothes, vehicles, and other mundane items. A scientist releases some poison gas into the laboratory to see how many aliens there are. The lab is filled, half of the objects in the room are actually aliens. The crew decides to strip naked and call in an evacuation. In her rush, the captain neglects to explain the nature of the aliens to the rescue dispatch. The panicked crew crowds into the rescue shuttle. The shuttle turns out to be a giant alien. The real shuttle lands. No one is left to save.9 “Little Black Bag” by C.M. Kornbluth The explosive birth rate among the poor and uneducated creates a massive pool of idiots, lead by a small minority of elite intelligentsia. But because the elite caste is so small, many important, complex jobs must be performed by the moron pool. So the elite group creates technology that does the thinking for the morons. In this case, the technology is a doctor’s black bag. Accidentally, one of the black bags is sent back to the 20th century to the home of a disgraced, alcoholic doctor. The doctor plans to sell it for booze, but an emergency pops up and he uses the bag to heal a seriously injured girl. The girl’s sister threatens to expose the doctor unless he shares the money from the sale of the black bag. But no pawn broker will buy the bag, so the two devise a scheme to open a medical practice with the bag. When the old doctor decides to turn the bag over to science for the betterment of humankind, the girl kills him. In the future, they detect that the bag has been used to kill, and they deactivate it. At that precise moment the girl is demonstrating the safety of one of the knives to a patient, and unwittingly slashes her own throat. The girl gets poetic justice, but now there will be no betterment of humankind. Kornbluth the pessimist.7 “Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw Brief story with surprising emotional depth. “Slow glass” greatly impedes the speed of light rays passing through it. In some cases, light may take ten years or more to pass through a sheet of slow glass. The narrator is having marital problems complicated by an unwanted pregnancy. He and his wife stop during a drive in the country to buy slow glass from an old man. The old man looks at his house, seeing images of his family through the windows. After the narrator buys some slow glass, the wife inadvertently enters the old man’s house to find there is no family. His wife and child died many years ago. The slow glass windows allow him occasional ghostly glimpses of them. The narrator and his wife are shaken by this revelation of loss, and walk away clinging to one another. Perhaps better conceived than told.7 “Day Million” by Frederick Pohl Future shock leavened with a healthy dose of authorial sassiness. The story itself is utterly rote boy meets girl. The uniqueness of the story is all in the shocking, otherworldly details of the futuristic world and the narrator’s cranky, taunting intrusions into the text of the story.

  • Sean Callaghan
    2019-03-03 00:13

    There were some nuggets in here that made reading it worthwhile. Mostly the value came from the selection of stories rather than the commentary itself.

  • Ian
    2019-03-03 21:24

    I'd give this a 3.5 were it an option. Not perfect but Silverberg is a craftsmanlike writer who shows a surprising amount of humility in this volume. If nothing else he's an excellent anthologist and the majority of these stories are very enjoyable to read and fairly diverse in their style. Most date from the 50s and 60s so while its hard to fault Silverberg personally for it, as a contemporary guide to the form this may not be the most helpful. That said, Silverberg goes over the basics pretty well and the topics in this volume are diverse enough that any reader not already deeply versed in Sci-fi already should find a lot of stories to enjoy. The volume opens with an extended personal writing biography detailing Silverbergs own early years as a writer. Silverberg may not be the absolute most inspired of sci-fi writers but he was certainly one of the hardest working and prolific writers in his heyday. He details all the essential elements even a basic writer needs to develop an effective story and doesn't pull punches for his own work. This is not the story of an instant genius of the field but of a writer that put in a lot of hard work to develop good stories. For that reason it might be a lot more useful than a guide written by somebody with an instinctive skill at storytelling as Silverberg was clearly a far more attentive writer. Each story (which I repeat are well-chosen if somewhat old)is followed by an essay highlighting the character, structure, or stylistic elements that make it work well and stay engaging. Silverberg does take time to differentiate the elements he thinks are unique to sci-fi and that sci-fi can accomplish that other types of fiction may not, and on occassion why those elements sometimes effectively compensate for something like limited characterization that would cripple other more "conventional" styles of fiction. Admittedly the organization of this book was a little jarring at first, but even if you only read the stories themselves and dont care about the biographical material its still a good read. This isnt a "how to" guide strictly speaking, but it does select stories as exemplars of some particular quality elements, world building, characterization, narrative style, etcetera. A good volume for someone wanting some basic tips on writing, somebody looking for quality stories of early sci-fi or somebody interested thats a fan of Mr. Silverberg and is curious about his early days as a writer.

  • Jlawrence
    2019-02-20 19:16

    Collection of good to excellent sf stories, framed in an interesting way: Silverberg's goal is to explore the craft of science fiction writing through the chosen stories. In the intro he gives a brief bio of how he became a sf writer (especially good for the sketches it gives of the editors who shaped him), and then follows each story with an analysis of what makes the story work. There's some decent variety in the stories, too - some lean more towards 'cool exploration of scientific idea', others towards a looser 'sense of wonder above all', others more towards character study, etc. - and Silverberg does a solid job of picking apart how these varying effects are achieved. Good read for any aspiring sf writers.

  • Laura
    2019-03-11 22:20

    I read this b/c one of the short stories was recommended by Connie Willis - now I don't even remember which one ;) Robert Silverberg takes you through his genesis as a sci fi writer and critically praises 13 stories that came out around the time (1950-53 or so) that he was beginning to have some success getting stories into magazines.It was OK for me - the stories are (for the most part) REALLY good - I think there were only two that I just plain old didn't like. As for his commentary - I disagreed with much of it, but it was entertaining to argue with him in my head. And I can never get enough anecdotes about the golden age of SF! My continued nostalgia for times ere I was even born surfaces again!

  • Tatiana
    2019-03-20 22:08

    3. Read a collection of essays (2016 read harder challenge)1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't (Around the year in 52 books: 2016)'Four in one' Damon Knight, 4.5 stars'Fondly Fahrenheit' Alfred Bester, 4.5 stars'No Woman born' C. L. Moore, 1.5 stars'Home is the hunter' Henry Kuttner, 4.5 stars'The Monsters' Robert Sheckley, 5 stars'Common Time' James Blish, 3 stars'Scanners live in vain' Cordwainer Smith, 4 stars'Hothouse' Brian W. Albiss, 1 star'The New Prime' Jack Vance, 5 stars'Colony' Philip K. Dick, 5 stars'The Little Black Bag' C. M. Kornbluth, 4.5 stars'Light of other days' Bob Shaw, 1.5 stars'Day Million' Frederik Pohl, 3 stars

  • Nathan Boole
    2019-03-13 20:36

    This was an awesome collection of short stories, even if it had just been a collection. It was added to a great deal, I think, by Silverberg's commentary and breakdown of each story, and some of the things he has to say about writing are very good to know.I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more about writing techniques in the book, but it was still an awesome book, and I think that several of the stories are now among my top ten favorite short stories of all time.Specifically Slow Glass, by Bob Shaw, and Day Million by Frederick Pohl. Both great stories that I really enjoyed.

  • Alayne
    2019-03-11 22:24

    This is a very interesting concept - one of the great scifi writers has put together a combination memoir, anthology of the best short stories in science fiction and then a commentary on each story. My only quibble with it is that it is so old - all the stories in it were written in the 50s and 60s -which is hardly the fault of the author! So if you enjoy science fiction, if you would like to know how to write it, or if you just want to know how someone of the standing of Robert Silverberg became a scifi author, you will enjoy this book.

  • Jon Mountjoy
    2019-03-16 19:18

    This book, which covers "Where to start reading and writing science fiction," starts with an autobiographical section from Robert Silverberg. Yes, I understand this is a decorated science fiction author, but the pomposity borders on arrogance. It really took me two attempts at this book to get through his grandiloquent description of his own self. After that, a series of really lovely short stories - each accompanied by relatively useful descriptions by Silverberg.

  • Alex
    2019-02-23 22:18

    A nice collection of sf short stories chosen for their quality and their aptness for illustrating pertinent points about the craft of writing sf. Silverberg has a good eye for a story and his analyses are enlightening. I enjoyed them all (except perhaps for "No Woman Born"), but the highlight, I think, is "The Little Black Bag" by Cyril Kornbluth.

  • Elisabeth
    2019-03-06 18:15

    An excellent assortment of classic sci fi from classic sci fi authors, WITH commentary about the best and worst bits of each, for the aspiring writer. Lots of other resources and suggestions too. A big win for sci fi lovers - great stories! - and a really big win for aspiring writers. I'll be buying this one, and I don't say that often!

  • Fredrick Danysh
    2019-03-19 21:15

    A blend of personal memoir, skills necessary to write good science fiction, and a collection of older science fiction short stories stories. Silverberg includes an analysis for each story, thus making them learning tools. I found the book educational.

  • Casey
    2019-03-08 21:24

    A stellar selection of stories (perhaps 2 of the 13 stories are duds, in my view), complemented by Silverberg's thoughtful commentary, which is almost completely focused on matters of writerly craft. There is a tragic paucity of books like this, in any genre.

  • Timothy
    2019-03-17 17:26

    Excellent introduction to the genre for both writers and readers.

  • John Otte
    2019-02-22 23:25

    A good collection of classic sci fi stories. Well worth the read (although some of them were sort of "meh")

  • Hazel
    2019-03-06 00:15

    This was great fun. I remember most of these stories and it was interesting to get Silverberg's perspective on them as a young reader, and a developing writer. For rereading.

  • Frank Taranto
    2019-02-21 23:17

    Silverberg uses other writers stories to show how he learned his craft. Very good stories and Silverberg info.